Chasing Squirrels and Bench Pressing

by Larry Traub

Larry Traub training the squat in his wet suit, getting ready to take the weights for a deep dive! (photo caption courtesy of the webmaster)

I ran into a childhood friend of mine a while back. We were standing outside a business, waiting for some things to be done and catching up on each other’s lives.  He had a small dog with him who kept wandering off, but returned when called.  He proceeded to tell me that the dog was old and in pretty bad shape. He told me the dog had some kind of degenerative condition with his hips, but then added, “He couldn’t be hurting too much because he chases squirrels around the yard like he was a young pup.” Now I don’t claim to be a ‘dog whisperer’ but I would bet the farm that his hips hurt like the devil when he was chasing those squirrels.  I just think that his addiction to chasing squirrels outweighed the pain that it caused him.

Lifting weights for a lot of us old timers can be a lot like that. Forty years of lifting and I have never had any serious injury of any type which I would like to attribute to good form and training hard without overtraining.  The glitch for me has been joint pain. The big one for me has been arthritis in my shoulders, but at different times my elbows, wrists and knees can get fired up also.

A few years ago I was adding on to the back of my garage to house my new weightroom and create more room for my toys. The process of building, which involved constantly climbing ladders and going through about 50 lbs. of 6”pole barn nails, proceeded to create pain in my elbows, knees, and wrists. During this process I discovered the power of neoprene. Neoprene sleeves seemed to keep the area warm as well as provide support, and that gave me some relief from the pain. I started considering how I could provide that relief for my shoulder and the only thing I could come up with was a wet suit.  I found out you could buy a “shorty” wet suit which was short sleeved and went to mid thigh. I figured I could get the desired effect for my shoulder, hips, and lower back and wear it under workout clothes without looking totally ridiculous.

So I walked into a local dive shop. (I have been to a couple of dives over the years, but this was my first trip to a dive shop.) I explained what I wanted and then I made the mistake of telling him why I wanted it.  When I explained how I wanted to minimize all the pain that I was having his response was, “Shouldn’t you just quit.”

Hell of a salesman!  I bought one off the internet.  As a matter of fact, I wore that one out and I’m on my second one.

Should I “just quit”?  It’s not going to happen. I’ve made some adjustments over the years but right now quitting is not an option. Since my strengths as a powerlifter have always been in my squat and deadlift, I have been able to minimize the actual bench pressing I do in my workout without a disastrous affect on my total, so it seems reasonable, to me, to keep competing.

I was bench pressing at my first annual Monster Garage meet last spring and there was a loud pop from my shoulder which has become quite normal when I bench press. One of the other lifters heard it from the back of the garage. He was a former high school lifter for me and after I completed the lift he asked, “Coach, does that hurt?”  Yeah, it hurt like the devil but right now my addiction to powerlifting outweighs the pain.